When it comes to knowing where are food comes from, most of us don’t think much beyond the fact that somehow it got to the grocery store or the restaurant. A new documentary called Samsara will help change that. The clip above shows 6 minutes, mostly of meat production, but also of every step it takes to get to our plates. Samsara, like its predecessor Baraka, has no narration, and simply lets the images speak for themselves.
And these are some powerful images. Samsara makes one realize just how brutally efficient our food production is. Sure, a farmer can raise cows, chickens and pigs in tens, maybe even breaking 100 in larger farms, but what if you want to raise, slaughter, process and sell as many chickens as possible? How would you do it? Capitalism and human ingenuity has come up with some incredible ideas, and machines to makes those ideas happen.
Samsara is meant to be shocking, and in that it might be a little unfair. While the line of “who knows what animals think and feel” has always been a convenient refuge for people who would rather not think about meat production, it should be noted that even factory farms take a few steps to make their animals more comfortable. Not because they care about the animals (it’s pretty obvious they don’t), but because stressed out cows produce less milk and stressed out pigs don’t get as big.
That said, animals in factory farms don’t have good lives. Some of them have really awful lives. They are pumped for their useful resources and then killed as efficiently as possible.
Small, sustainable and organic food is generally better for the environment, the soil (in the case of produce) and the animals (in the case of meat) and of course it’s better for you. Same goes for eating vegetarian: meat production uses the most pesticides of any food group (followed by dairy) and American cows consume more drugs than American humans.
This is not a space to fully explore food production and how it could be improved, but I highly recommend the works of Michael Pollan and Temple Grandin as sources to start learning about food issues.